When I was a kid, my parents let me watch the great 1988 Hackman-Dafoe film Mississippi Burning at probably too young an age. For years afterward I was tormented by the thought that, like in the movie, there were Klansman somewhere who were stalking my interracial family and me and who would one day come to my house and kill us all (I was somewhat of a morbid child).
To be embarrassingly honest, though the nightmares eventually subsided, I was still a bit frightened of what I believed was the powerful and murderous Ku Klux Klan until I was well into my teens. One day, I stumbled across an old HBO documentary called Skinheads: Soldiers of the Race War. Skinheads detailed the exploits of white supremacists in Georgia and Alabama like Bill Riccio, a chicken hawk who preyed on sad, lonely, poverty-stricken young people in order to build his white-power army. There was a lot of talk of Hitler and the race war, but mostly what Riccio and his ragtag kids did was a lot of ranting on street corners and getting drunk at backyard barbecues. These were the people I was afraid of all these years?, I thought to myself, irritated at the memory of the sleepless nights I'd had worrying about the big, bad Ku Klux Klan. They're basically just a racist version of Fagin and his scofflaw boys.
This Anthony Karen photo series over at Slate, "A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored," gives me the same feeling I got that day as a teenager, watching that documentary about Riccio and his angry band of Nazis. Above is one of the photos from the series. It depicts a Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard attempting to shoot a cockroach off his wall with a pellet gun. His house is littered with beer bottles and other refuse. His wife guards her eyes and their goddaughters' face from a possible ricochet. This is your fearsome Klan.
To be sure, some hate groups in America still have the potential to be extremely dangerous and occasionally deadly, as the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented for years now. But it's good to remember, for your sanity, that a lot of what the contemporary Klan does is what you see above: drinkin' and shootin' bugs, for the good of the white race.